Weird Mob is certainly an apt moniker for this Charlotte, Virginia synth pop group that seamlessly combines prog, new wave, electro pop, and a touch of post punk. Their’s is an eclectic, and definitely weird, mix, at times odd, at times lighthearted, always catchy. Wizards is the debut album from this poptastic creation of married librarians Dave Gibson and Renee Reighart, a U.S. Library of Congress video game archivist and a University of Virginia Fine Arts Librarian, respectively. It swerves and veers all over the musical map, but is always mainly focused on crafting infectious melodies. It’s out on the 21st April via Hibernator Gig Records, but you can stream the entire buggering thing right here in the meantime. Pre-order the record via Bandcamp.
Listen to Wizards below, and read what Dave Gibson has to say about each song.
Wizards – The album’s title track and mission statement. Lyrically it was inspired by a trip to Scotland that Renee and I took in 2014 and all of the mystical things we encountered while we there. The metaphor of the wizard shunning society to go off into the solitude of woods to perfect his spells applies to the band heading into the basement to work on the record. Ultimately I wanted to write a prog song that could also be a pop song and I hope I succeeded.
Devices – “Devices” was the first song written for the record. It was written almost two years ago, in fact, so it feels the most lived in of all the songs on the new record. The original arrangement was a little overstuffed and we pared it back a lot in the mixing process which I think helped it to breathe a bit more and allowed it to better fit the lyrical themes of the song. Basically it’s about the increasing prevalence of technology in our lives and memories of a time when “social media” meant making someone a mix tape. We stripped the verses down to the “analog” instruments, acoustic, bass and drums, so when the synth and electric guitar come charging in it essentially represents the invasion of modern technology. By the end of the song, the narrator has decided to find the beauty in technology while using it to evoke a sense of the past. “Try to sing along as devices keep screaming at you…” Cue the synth solo.
Hang It Up – “Hang It Up” was basically my attempt to write a Go-Gos song (or Bonnie Hayes song or Game Theory song sung by one of the female members of the band). I instantly knew I wanted Renee to sing it and I thought she could bring something really special to it. Renee wrote the lyrics which are basically a jumble of sci-fi imagery, partially inspired by the film, Elysium, and the current mission of choosing people to colonize Mars.
Your Sorcerer’s Ways – This was the last song written for the record and is basically an attempt to write and record a folk song in the style of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. It basically carries on the wizard narrative from the title track from the point of view of one of the wizard’s former friends sent to talk some sense into the wizard and bring him back to society. It doesn’t go well.
Nu American Haircutz – The title comes from a book that Renee found at the Fine Arts Library.It’s from the early 80s and features various New York models sporting some pretty rad new wave haircuts. One of the models happens to be a young, pre-Cheers Woody Harrelson. Pretty weird. Anyway, I was inspired by that title and those haircuts to write a new wave song that sort of conjuredup images of my youth. Going on road trips with my family through Europe, sitting in the backseat with my brother listening to tapes on a crappy Walkman, my parents constantly listening to Genesis and solo Phil Collins. I spent part of my childhood (from 1984-1985) living in England and everyday was a constant reminder of just how American we all really were so there’s a bit of that in there as well. In terms of tracking that song, one thing that sticks out is the suggestion made by our drummer Adam to include drum machine.It was a pretty straightforward song before we added the drum machine. We recorded all the drums on the album to tape and decided to record the drum machine to tape as well for this song and I think we captured a little bit of that saturated, blown out, broken Walkman sound that the images of the lyrics conjureup.It certainly took the song into a unique direction and if anything madeit sound more of the era I was trying to capture.
Hoping – Renee and I have a duet on our debut EP called “Wired In Parallel” which is one of my favorite Weird Mob songs, so I wanted to make sure we had a duet on the debut full-length as well. This one is a bit more call and response, about how we both just sort of stumble through our lives, attempting as many projects as we can and hoping for the best. Luckily, we always land on our feet. I really like Bryan’s disco guitar during the chorus of this song.
Form Follows Function – An attempt to write a song in the style of Gary Numan that ultimately morphed into what can only be described as a Weird Mob song. Lyrically, it’s another riff on our relationship to technology and the connections to other people that we make through technology and the struggle to define those connections.
The Iron Age – Possibly my favorite song on the new record. It started with Renee asking me to write a song that captured the feeling of a trip to Wales that we took a few years back, so lyrically that’s exactly what it’s about: the two of us hiking to the top of a mountain to find the remains of an iron age fort and staying in a small town in Wales on Halloween, eating Indian take-out in the room of our B&B. I just think this song has a great atmosphere and really cool sounding synths and guitar going on.
Popular Dogs – A few years ago, Adam, who plays drums in Weird Mob, worked in a library warehouse sorting books, and he started to write down titles that reminded him of Guided By Voices song titles. We eventually used a lot of these titles for a GBV inspired project (https://hibernatorgigs.bandcamp.com/album/songs-in-the-key-of-bob) but I stole one of them for Weird Mob. Since 4/5 of the band also play in a Squeeze cover band, I wanted to have at least one Weird Mob song that captured the spirit of the early Stiff Records days and this is that song.
Turn Up The Tape – Another power pop song trying to capture the nostalgia of video game arcades, cassette tapes, etc. A call to arms to turn up the cassette tape to drown out the hum of the modern world with some good old fashioned hiss. We recorded all of the drums to this album on tape as well so I suppose we could also be saying turn up the drums.
Light Blue Leader – Probably the most unique sounding song on the record. I bought a big old Kawai synth from the 80s last year (the kind Jan Hammer used!) and fell in love with one of the presets, then wrote an entire song around it, then ended up using only the Kawai for the rest of the synth sounds in the song. I thought Renee’s voice would sound really cool singing it. She also wrote the lyrics but I have no idea what they’re about and she won’t tell me. The title of the song is a reference to the light blue tape leader used exclusively by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop back in the day.
It’s Over Wizard – The magnum opus album closer! Everybody needs one! I quickly sketched out a demo for this song about two years ago and at first thought it was too much of a joke to do anything with, but the more I lived with it the more I loved it and it basically set the tone for the rest of the record. I really love everyone’s playing on the song and especially love Bryan’s Beatle-esque guitar solo before the big prog breakdown at the end. The title came from a terrible Power Rangers movie that my friends and I used to enjoy on a comedic level. The phrase “It’s Over Wizard” has been bouncing around in my head now for almost twenty years. I’m glad I finally found some use for it.